Columbia Faculty Group Goes on Strike in Solidarity With Anti-Israel Student Protesters

Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine at Columbia vow not to return 'until police are removed from our campus'

Columbia faculty hold anti-Israel rally (Spencer Platt/Getty Images)
May 6, 2024

A Columbia faculty group has gone on strike in solidarity with arrested student protesters and will not return to campus until law enforcement is removed.

Faculty and Staff for Justice in Palestine at Columbia announced on Friday that "faculty, staff, and graduate workers of Columbia University, Barnard College, and Teachers College" would be "immediately" going on a strike until police are removed from the recently occupied campus.

"We will not return to a campus that is extremely dangerous for Black, Palestinian, Middle Eastern, Latinx, South Asian, Arab, Muslim, trans, queer, and other communities who are disproportionately profiled by police," said the group. "As members of the faculty, staff, and graduate workers, we will not return to campus nor engage remotely for administrative service work—we will only serve students directly—until police are removed from our campus."

The announcement comes as Columbia president Minouche Shafik struggles to reestablish normalcy on campus. It is unclear how Shafik will respond to the strike and calls to get rid of the police. The school's plan for law enforcement to remain on campus extends until May 17, two days after its graduation ceremony was supposed to take place, to ensure order and safety. Columbia on Monday canceled the ceremony in light of the protests.

The faculty group says that "no one can safely return to campus" because of police.

"Given the use of military-grade assault weapons and surveillance technology against our students … and the announcement of the plan for police to remain on campus until May 17th, we believe no one can safely return to campus," the group said.

Neither the faculty group nor Columbia responded to requests for comment.

It is unclear how many are involved in the strike, but participants are asked to fill out a form saying they will either strike or vow "not to retaliate against participating workers." The form also encourages supporters to publicly advertise their participation. The strike is expected to last two weeks, but the group says it could end earlier if Shafik agrees to remove police "from the campus and its surroundings."

Work covered by the strike includes any activity "that directly serve[s] the administration rather than our students," including task forces, such as Columbia's Task Force on Antisemitism.

Many Columbia faculty members have been open for months about their support for anti-Israel student activists. Two weeks ago, a group of Columbia University professors held a rally to express solidarity with students who were suspended for holding unauthorized protests on campus and to lambaste Shafik for cracking down on them. Since then, faculty members have doubled down by participating in the unauthorized encampment and acting as security guards at the entrance.

After student protesters overtook Hamilton Hall last week, faculty members were also spotted nearby a blockaded entrance, expressing support for the protest. According to Columbia head of communications Ben Chang, two university employees were among the occupiers arrested by the New York Police Department on Thursday.

Additionally, "a significant portion of those who broke the law and occupied Hamilton Hall were outsiders," Chang noted. Specifically, over a quarter of arrestees were unaffiliated with Columbia University.